Ask The Therapist: “I have arguments with my brother and whenever my brother would say some misunderstood words, my mom would believe him…whenever these fights happen, I am always blaming myself.”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“Hello, I just recently turned 18. Since I entered my teenage years, I often felt like my feelings were getting ignored. My mother is good at heart, but doesn’t see that or understand that I am not trying to be batameez. I have a brother 2 years older than me, and whenever we get into fights my mom would always tell me to shut up because “the one who is honest would stay quiet” but I can’t because whenever my brother would say some misunderstood words, my mom would believe them and scold me. This happens so much that it makes me angry and I want to tell them, maybe even shout, that I am right and that I don’t want lectures. The other day, my brother wanted to eat pizza so I lent him some money and rest he took from my mother. I gave him the money happily, but then the next day he was just trying to belittle me and saying I didn’t want your money or I could throw more money on your face just like that, and I can guarantee you that it was not about money; maybe I just wanted some appreciation from him. This fight was just an example of the many fights. This has resulted in me feeling weird whenever I want to show my feelings to anyone. such as my friends. I know I am ranting but I just want someone to tell me that I am right in some situations and not some attention seeking or sympathy gaining girl. Like I said my feelings are messed up and my anxiety is at the highest flames. Whenever these petty fights happen, I am always blaming myself and just don’t want anything to do with them. It feels like everything is going smooth then I am the one who destroys it, and when I am in the corner sitting quietly, they think I am being stubborn and want sympathy from them. Am I really attention seeking? Don’t I deserve an apology? Or is it always the younger ones who should apologize as per our elders’ sayings?”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I can imagine how tough it must be to the younger sister, and feel like you need to be the one to make things right. You have every right to feel the way that you’re feeling right now. Your message is something that resonates all too well, especially from a cultural standpoint. There’s this belief that elders are always right, and that the younger ones are taught to give them unconditional respect regardless of how they behave. While this is something that has been ingrained in most Pakistani, what people don’t realize is that it can lead to a great deal of resentment, and can often make someone feel that they are the ones who are solely responsible for making things right, and are thereby the only ones at fault. In the face of conflict, there are always two or more parties involved, and ideally, both would accept their role in said conflict. Now, unfortunately, there is very little one can do to change how the other person reacts, the only thing you can control is yourself and how you respond. Let’s talk about how you can deal with conflict, while also taking care of your own emotions.

Two (Or More) Sides To Every Conflict

As I said earlier, regular conflicts involve two or more people, and there are very rare circumstances where only one person is at fault (this is mostly in cases of abusive relationships). It is essential for each party to understand and accept their part in the conflict in order to come to healthy and constructive resolution. It must also be noted that it is healthy to get into fights and arguments with your siblings or people that you’re close to, it’s only natural when you’re close and/or live under one roof. The only thing is that while conflict is natural, it is also crucial to find effective ways to resolve it. It’s also important to recognise that you are human, and that you are worthy of compassion and understanding, from yourself as well as the world around you.

People May Not Always Know How To Communicate Effectively… 

One of the biggest factors to long-standing arguments and conflict is ineffective communication skills. Sometimes what ends up happening is that individuals just blame, belittle and argue, taking away from their accountability, and projecting the blame onto the other person, at times with a great deal of aggression. If a conflict reaches a stage where parties are just attacking one another, it might help to take a step away, take a breath and talk about the issue from a more grounded place. Focus on how YOU are feeling, and what you would like to communicate to the other person. 

Your Feelings Are Valid

Anon, with everything you told me, I imagine it would be tough to really express yourself to others, but remember one thing: your feelings are your right. They come from somewhere and are your body’s way of communicating something to you. Get in touch with those emotions and recognise that they exist for a reason. Allow yourself the space, the compassion and understanding to let those feelings be. I know it can be difficult to do, especially when the world is telling you otherwise – and trust me, there are so many who have struggled to find that acceptance within themselves, it’s just a matter of reminding yourself and fostering that love and kindness. Look up daily self-affirmations, self-compassion/self-love exercises, and incorporate them into your daily routine, even if it is just for a minute or two a day.

Finding Ways To Be Heard

Anon, you deserve to be heard. Perhaps there might be another way for you to communicate how you feel? Sometimes it’s not so much about being right or wrong as it is taking ownership and being authentic towards what you’re feeling in the moment. We often wait for others to come to us, to take the first step. Remember, you are the one in control of what comes next. It might help to take a step away from how you want others to respond, and more about how YOU would like to respond. 

Anon, unfortunately there are times where you will find yourself being unheard, and your needs and opinions dismissed, and that is unfair. However, there are ways where you can have your voice be heard, it’s just about finding the right tone and the right words. I would highly recommend reading our previous article: “Ask the Therapist: My mother and I have always had a toxic relationship…because of the pandemic, the stress has crossed all boundaries…I have nightmares. Please help me”, which talks about different ways of dealing with difficult family members and effective forms of communication. I hope that you found the answers that you were looking for here. I wish you all the best on your journey towards healing. Good luck and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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